All this prevents them from experiencing both temporal and ultimate happiness. When it comes to spiritual growth, the Vajrasattva purification practice is even more important. The practice of Vajrasattva is common to all four traditions of Tibetan Buddhism—Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, and Geluk—where it is used to purify obstacles, obscurations, negative karma, and illness.
The great enlightened being Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo said that if you have killed even a tiny insect and have not purified that negativity by the end of the day with a practice such as the Vajrasattva purification, the weight of that karma will have doubled by the next day.
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On the third day it will have doubled again, and by fifteen days will have become as heavy as the karma of killing a human being. By eighteen days it will have increased , times. So you can see, as the weeks and months and years go by, one tiny little negative karma will have multiplied over and over until it has become like a mountain the size of this earth. When death arrives, the karma will have become incredibly heavy. Here I am talking about just one small negative karma, but every day we accumulate many, many negative karmas of body, speech, and mind.
The weight of each tiny negative karma created each day multiplies over and over again, becoming unimaginably heavy. Thus we have accumulated many heavy negative karmas in this life, and in all our beginningless previous lives as well. If you contemplate the continuous multiplication of all these karmas it is unimaginably unimaginable!
The great, sublime realized beings also explain that this is the way to purify whatever downfalls and transgressions you have accumulated. It not only has the power to prevent any negative karma created that day from multiplying, but it can also completely purify all negativities you have ever created—in that day, in that life, and even since your beginningless rebirths. These are some of the incredible benefits of practicing the Vajrasattva recitation and meditation.
Moreover, it is taught that if you recite the long Vajrasattva mantra one hundred thousand times you can purify even broken root vows of highest yoga tantra. The Kadampa Geshe Dolpa said that if you practice purification and the accumulation of merit continuously and turn your mind to the path, lamrim realizations that you thought would take one hundred years to achieve will come to you in just seven. Such is the inspiring testimony of the highly experienced meditators who have attained the various levels of the path to enlightenment.
Lama Atisha used to say that there are an inconceivable number of doors to downfall for tantric practitioners who have taken highest yoga tantra initiations. For example, simply looking at an ordinary object such as a vase and seeing it as ordinary is a downfall.
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Just as a clean mandala left on the altar quickly gets covered in dust, so does your mental continuum collect piles of negativities in a very short time. He said, Just as one stone can scatter one hundred birds, there is the special skillful means called the practice of Vajrasattva. What Lama Atisha was saying was that on the one hand, in just one minute, it is so easy to accumulate a torrential downpour of downfalls and negativities—for example, looking at an object as ordinary—but on the other, there is the skillful means of tantra, the practice of Vajrasattva.
This one practice will purify the countless negativities of broken root and branch vows, and in this way you can develop your mind in the path to enlightenment. Therefore, the practice of Vajrasattva is extremely important—both for those who accept the existence of reincarnation and karma and for those who do not.
The Vajrasattva commentary in this book is an experiential instruction given by my guru, Lama Yeshe, who even to the ordinary view was a great yogi, and who took care of me like a father takes care of his only child. He gave me not only the necessities of life, such as food and clothing, but also guided me in the Dharma for more than thirty years. This is my wish. Lama Yeshe was not only a quintessential vajra master, he was also the inspiration behind the creation of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition FPMT , a worldwide organization of Buddhist meditation and teaching centers, both urban and rural, monasteries, retreat facilities, healing centers, and publishing houses.
I first met Lama in November while attending the third Kopan meditation course, my first.
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The teachings were being given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and most of the fifty students in attendance were unaware that there was another lama at Kopan. Someone found out that I was a physician, and about a week into the course, I was asked to go see Lama, who had an infection on his leg. Thus I saw Lama daily for the next week or so, my Dharma career beginning to flourish even as my medical one began to peter out. Eighteen months later, the now-famous Kopan courses—held twice a year, back then—were attracting well over two hundred people at a time, most of them young Westerners traveling in India and Nepal.
Twenty of us, inspired by the peerless example of our teachers, had taken ordination as monks and nuns. In the spring of , just after the sixth Kopan course and several years of sutra teachings on the graduated path to enlightenment, Lama felt we were ready for tantra. He chose the purification practice of Heruka Vajrasattva, and compiled for our use a sadhana, or method of accomplishment, from the Chakrasamvara tantra. He then gave a five-lecture commentary on the sadhana and an extensive discourse on how to make a meditational retreat.
In the appendices are the sadhana and tsok text in Tibetan script, phoneticized Tibetan, for ease of chanting, and English, and a method for blessing the offering to the local spirits, the shi-dak torma. But it must be emphasized, as Lama says in his introduction, that to do the Heruka Vajrasattva practice, you require a highest yoga tantra initiation and instruction from a fully qualified lama.
In this vein, readers should also note that since the teachings in this book are from the oral tradition and aimed at practitioners, Sanskrit and Tibetan terms have not been rendered with scholars in mind but in phonetics approximating their correct pronunciation, devoid of diacritics. Foreign terms are not necessarily italicized within the text, but all foreign terms are defined for the reader in the glossary. In these teachings, Lama Yeshe frequently uses the word Westerners, which reflects his audience at the time and has not been edited out. I spent more than four months with this commentary in the Charok Cave at Lawudo, not far from the Lawudo Gompa, the site of the hermitage of the Lawudo Lama, of whom Lama Zopa Rinpoche is the reincarnation.
And having ten or so vajra brothers and sisters up and down the Lawudo mountain around me, doing the same practice, was a great inspiration. It was a wonderful time. Simultaneously, twenty or so meditators inaugurated group retreat within the FPMT at Kopan Gompa, and three-month Heruka Vajrasattva group retreats are still conducted annually at Tushita Retreat Centre, above Dharamsala, India, and occasionally at other centers. After the retreat, Lama worked with Ven.
Marcel Bertels and Ven. Yeshe Khadro to augment both the initial sadhana and commentary.
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It forms the basis of parts 1 and 2 of this book. Those of us presented with this challenge do the best we can! I read my first draft of the main commentary to Lama at Tushita Retreat Centre in April , and he made many corrections, additions, and suggestions. I treasure my tapes of those meetings, as I do my memories of all the other times I spent with Lama.
All his suggestions have been incorporated in this book. Lama Yeshe was a great advocate of the Heruka Vajrasattva purification practice. He once expressed the hope that all his students would make the time to do the retreat at least once before they died. Thank you, Rinpoche, for changing my life, I said to Lama Zopa Rinpoche at the end of my first Kopan meditation course he just laughed.
All of us in the FPMT give continual thanks to Lama Zopa Rinpoche, our shining beacon of wisdom and compassion and a living example of enlightened realizations. When Lama Yeshe passed away, Rinpoche seamlessly maintained the development of the FPMT until it now comprises more than one hundred centers and study groups in thirty-one countries around the world, while continuing to lead an ever-growing number of international disciples spiritually, both by his incomparable demeanor and by his profound teachings. This project and many others have benefited from the exceptional work done by Peter and Nicole Kedge and Ven.
This computerized diamond mine is now being developed by the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive and will continue to produce teachings for the benefit of all sentient beings for a long time to come. Without detailing their individual contributions, I would also like to thank Ven.
Marcel Bertels, Ven. Yeshe Khadro, Martin Willson, Ven. Connie Miller, T. Yeshe, Ven. Sangye Khadro, Ven.
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Thubten Pemo, Ven. Thubten Wongmo, Ursula Bernis, Ven. Ann McNeil, Ven.
Max Mathews, Jonathan Landaw, Ven. Robina Courtin, Ven. George Churinoff, and Vincent Montenegro. Thanks are also due to the FPMT centers where the teachings in this book were given, and to the dedicated students who transcribed the tapes. We are especially grateful to Peter Iseli for the beautiful painting of Heruka Vajrasattva that adorns the cover of this book.
Becoming Vajrasattva: The Tantric Path of Purification
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